“Back in the day” (as they say), Billy Steinberg wrote a sweet little song that expressed his love for his mother. Precisely because he had seen her handle everything life had thrown at her without anything phony – he applauded her “true colors shining through.”
By the early ‘80’s, Steinberg was partnered with Tom Kelly. Kelly picked up Steinberg’s old lyrics – tweaked them a good bit then the two of them submitted it to Cyndi Lauper.
Lauper loved the song so much that she made it the 1st single from her 2nd album – released in 1986, the song climbed to spend 2 solid weeks as #1 on Billboard’s Hot 100 list!
In the mid-1980’s I was finishing grad school and helping Adele herd two preschoolers around the house, so I pretty much missed the Lauper version (who am I kidding: I pretty much missed the mid-1980’s!). In the late 1990’s Phil Collins released a more soulful version of the song and the rest is history…
You see, Collins’ was one of at least 50 versions of the song that have been released since, including 3 or 4 new takes on it just this year. That’s some impressive staying power.
Confessionally, I must admit that the version I am most familiar with is a choir rendition used as the backdrop for a boatload of Kodak commercials… “back in the day”!
I was thinking, not-so-much about the song, but about that phrase:”your true colors shining through” while reading an online article about Fall earlier this week.
I love Fall – it is my 2nd favorite season of the year. When Fall comes you know
(1) Winter is near [that’s my favorite season], and
(2) Summer is over [that’s #4 on my list… trust me, you do not want to see me in shorts any longer than you absolutely have to!].
The article reminded me of all the things I have forgotten about how Fall works! Chief among those lessons forgotten was one about the color of the leaves.
I bet you remember the word photosynthesis don’t you? That process is the way that leaves feed plants. While the plant is sucking up water through the roots, carbon dioxide floats in from the air. Leaves soak up the sun through the long summer days, turning the water and carbon dioxide into oxygen and sugar. The plants use the sugar for energy and growth and release oxygen into the air for the rest of us! That whole process is photosynthesis!
The chemical that is the glue that holds this whole process together is Chlorophyll, and that is what gives plants the green color we see from Spring to early Fall.
Trees instinctively know that Winter is on the way, so they store up that sugar to keep them energized through the cooler, shorter days. They sort of hibernate, giving that food-making factory of photosynthesis a little time off!
With the factory closing down, the Chlorophyll goes on vacation, the green-machine vanishes, and the true colors shine through.
You see, the pigments of yellow and orange have been there all along! Once the greening effect of Chlorophyll scoots out, BAM, they shine through. If there is some sugar left in the leaves, the yellow and orange hues bust out in rich purples and wide-eyed reds.
You put all of that against a bright, blue sky and the reflections of a still lake and you almost can’t help but grab a cup of homemade hot chocolate, make yourself a s’mores, and breakout a DVD of It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!
All that scientific stuff made me think of a science teacher I had in high school. One day he brought a dark glass of liquid to class and sat it in the center of a table. He prompted our class to guess what the liquid was – unable to see through the glass and not allowed close enough to smell or taste, the speculations were all off the chart.
At a climactic moment he slammed his hands down on the table near the glass – the table shook… the glass wobbled… the liquid trembled and spilled onto the table. Once it was exposed, we narrowed our conjecture and came up with the right answer.
The true colors shined through. They were there all the time, masked – like the Chlorophyll masked the magnificent Fall colors all summer long. Add just a little tension and the concealed contents spilled out.
This natural phenomena and science-tested reality begs the question, what are my true colors?
There is always something that is going to shake our table, spilling out what is on the inside… the “Chlorophyll of our lives” will go into hibernation, taking with it the masks we’ve worn, and our true colors will shine though.
I think I spend a lot of time… too much time… focusing on what some have called image management… cleaning up the outside, hoping against hope that the inside will follow in time.
There was a loud, religious sub-group among 1st century Jews who behaved similarly and, in truth, gave Jesus grief over His lack of interest in their philosophy. He once challenged them about having polished the cups from which they drank nasty water – “First wash the inside of the cup” He advised.
Later He compared their outside first approach to white-washing tombs when the inside were just decaying bones, again advocating a thriving, beating heart first.
Why the inside first? I think, in part, because that’s what shines through when the masks are off; when the stressors come.
When that happens to you, what do people see? Who are you, really? It’s a question I’m asking these days? You?